Engineers begin work on Moroccan high-speed rail link
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca – 15/04/09
Morocco is moving forward with plans to expand its rail network by building a high-speed rail service linking Tangier to Casablanca. A new TGV line will cut travel times between the two cities from more than five hours to a bit more than two. Some 8 million passengers per year are expected to use the new train by 2016.
On Thursday (April 9th), representatives of the National Railways Office (ONCF) and their French counterparts, the SNCF, met in Rabat to sign general contracting assistance agreements worth a total of EUR 65 million.
These agreements relate to the design, construction, commissioning, use of rolling stock, the commercial services to be offered by the high-speed rail link, and the maintenance of a 200 km stretch of track allowing a running speed of 320 km/hour.
Studies predict a profitability ratio of 8.5% for the project and show that the rail link will be a major asset for the national economy, Minister of Equipment and Transport Karim Ghellab said.
Dozens of French experts will be deployed to Morocco to impart their expertise and experience with high-speed rail technology to Moroccan railway workers.
"Morocco can take advantage of France’s twenty-five long years of experience, with all the benefits that this entails in terms of bringing people, regions, and economies closer together," said SNF CEO Guillaume Pepy.
The project "will achieve a phenomenal reduction in journey times, which will be far shorter than journey times for road travel," added Pepy. "This is certain to save time, cut the number of road accidents, lessen environmental impacts, and will also have an effect on the property market, just as the Paris-Marseilles link has done."
The plan to build the high-speed link is one that Moroccans, many of whom travel by rail, are following with interest.
Saad, a parliamentary civil servant in his early thirties, told Magharebia that the project is long overdue, and that it is necessary to "boost the national rail network, which is becoming an increasingly important means of transport". He added that it is not too late to do this, "provided that the timetable for completion is adhered to".
"The high-speed rail link will definitely cut journey times, reduce the number of road accidents, and lessen environmental impacts, but it’s also important to bear in mind what we can afford in terms of prices," cautioned Nisrine Maissaa, a student from Rabat. "This will help ensure that the rail link is accessible to all Moroccans."
The Tangier-Casablanca high-speed rail link marks the first stage of the ONCF’s high-speed rail master plan, pursuant to which over 1,500 kilometres of new railway lines will be built by 2035.
Morocco's train project includes the construction of a 200 kilometre-long stretch of track linking Tangier and Kenitra, offering a potential running speed of 350 km/hour. Other plans call for links with the existing rail network between Rabat and Casablanca and the purchase of high-speed trains capable of reaching speeds of up to 320 km/hour.
The implementation of the Moroccan high-speed rail project is one of the measures covered by the memorandum of understanding signed in October 2007 by King Mohammed VI and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
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